Wednesday, September 8, 2010

So This Is What Allen Toussaint Was Talking About

On several different occasions when seeing Allen Toussaint perform live, he would devote 3 minutes of storytelling to Frankie Miller, the Scottish R&B singer who he calls "the best soul singer I have ever heard."


My first taste of Frankie Miller was his guest vocal on Thin Lizzy's 1974 "Night Life" album, and my thought was, "Why is this guy singing this song I love so much?" I preferred the deep soul and phrasing of leader Phil Lynott.

Next up was an album from 1982, "Dancing In The Rain." My only interest there was Thin Lizzy guitarist Brain Robertson. It's a weak record that is distinctly 80s, with its reverberating drum sound and tinny production, and Robbo's guitar is hardly an issue. Not the best introduction to Mr. Miller. Trust me.

At that time, I had little interest in New Orleans, and just barely knew Allen Toussaint, or that he had produced Frankie's "High Life" LP. That hookup occurred because Miller sent Toussaint his previous album, "Once In A Blue Moon," which featured Brinsley Schwarz as his backing band. All these great names, I must be missing something.

Years later, after I disposed with most of that teenage attitude that made me a complete moron and led me to call Charlie Parker a hack, (not to his face, obviously, but to a friend who didn't like Mott The Hoople and only listened to jazz), I caught up with all my Frankie Miller.

I have a new found respect for Miller, though it's not "High Life," the Toussaint record I am impressed with. It's 1973's "The Rock." This album has been in heavy rotation since it arrived in the mail from a Canadian eBay seller just a few days ago.

Listen up, and hear what Allen Toussaint heard.




soundsource said...

The Rock is one of the great lost blue eyed soul records. Now check out Full House the follow up another strong soul record.

FD13NYC said...

Indeed Frankie Miller was a good soulish bluesy rock artist. I agree with soundsource, Full House is also a strong record. Which includes the classic "Be Good To Yourself". Check It Out!

cmealha said...

Vaguely aware of him as a name I would read about from time to time but never heard any of his music. These 2 cuts definitely warrant further investigation of his music. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Ha. I was hanging out with a very talkative know-it-all former occasional Rolling Stone writer/NY club booker ( get it, Sal ?)and he lectured me at great length about how Frankie Miller was the most amazing thing ever, inspired Rod Stewart, Black Crowes, etc, and that I should own his entire catalog. I'd never heard of him. He played me a few things that I thought were really good, but I wasn't converted. He's really good, but was not now my new favorite.
Then I was on tour in London with Ian Hunter and his opening act ( get it, Sal ?)and at an after-party that suddenly included a couple Mott guys (presumably there to plan the subsequent reunion) I was introduced by Ian to a frail man in a wheelchair who I was informed was Frankie Miller.I decided not to tell him I'd just a week or so before discovered his music ( never sounds flattering ) Long, pointless, rambling story short, I'm gonna send you a couple songs that I was moved by.

charlie c. said...

Very nice! Glad I took the time to listen.

Multielvi said...

This is one of my all time favorite albums. I picked up a copy for a buck back in the seventies and wore it out. I was fortunate to see him perform live at the Wax Museum in Washington DC before he took ill.

Keep up the great work that you do with this blog.

cooljerk said...

hey hear that "the rock is one of the great lost blue eyed soul records" doesn't mean much to me...i'm thinking much of the entire category is's derivative, imitative and doesn't ring true, at least not to my ears...not saying frankie miller's pipes ain't good (although i much prefer the delbert mcclinton version of fool in love)...just voicing my opinion (and yes, we know i am prejudiced) that a lot of those blue- eyed soul singers sound more like pretenders than contenders and they should have just stuck to making rock music... yeah, i'm gonna go with that...steven

Sal Nunziato said...

I think I get it Anon, at least the second part of your mystery. Working on the first part. You may have to call me.

Here's the story behind the "frail man."

In August 1994, Miller suffered a devastating brain hemorrhage that left him in a coma for five months. Unable to walk or talk upon his emergence, Miller rehabilitated himself enough to begin writing songs again; at a late-'90s benefit concert in Edinburgh, Miller's new collaboration with Will Jennings, "The Sun Goes Up, the Sun Comes Down," was performed by Bonnie Tyler, Paul Carrack, and Jools Holland.

Thanks Charlie and Multielvi.


It wasn't me who referred to "The Rock" as a "great, lost, blue-eyed soul record," but in defense of Soundsource, it is indeed a great record.

You say derivative and imitative, so...after the first Otis Redding record came out, anything that followed, by say O.V. Wright, or Sam & Dave, or well...anyone is...derivative?

"The Rock" is almost 40 years old and is a pretty solid contender. I don't believe Frankie Miller is a pretender at all.

soundsource said...

golly gee Batman I was in this band like forever and the lead singer / keyboard player fancied himself a soul singer and we did all these esoteric soul covers, yet he was a white guy (but not blue eyed) does that mean we were the pretenders all that time. Geez that sucks and we didn't even do stop my sobbing.

soundsource said...

on second thought maybe the Bonzo Dog Band were right when they sang "can blue men sing the whites"

Gene Oberto said...

Internet has been down so I arise again to ask one question...

"Do you skip over *Walking the Dog' on The Rock?"

Sal Nunziato said...

Don't have to Gene, it's not on there.

Gene Oberto said...

Ooops, remastered version from the FM website

The Rock
1.A Fool In Love
2.The Heartbreak
3.The Rock
4.I Know Why The Sun Don't Shine
5.Hard On The Levee
6.Ain't Got No Money
7.All My Love To You
8.I'm Old Enough
10.Drunken Nights In The City
11.A Fool In Love (live)
12.Hard On The Levee (live)
13.Sail Away (live)
14.Drunken Nights In The City (live)
15.Walking The Dog (With Rory Gallagher live)

Come to think of it, you probably would...

OldRockr1 said...

This one was a total surprise. Never heard of him that I could remember but after playing those tracks I have to admit I want to hear more. Great stuff. You can hear Delbert McClinton in the vocals. All in all a nice surprise this morning. Thanks.

anythingshouldhappen said...

I'm so pleased you've got Frankie Miller.

When I eventually find your Blunstone, I'll find you some great Frankie boots.

Wonderful live performer with some great albums and some duffers too.